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Baseball Digest, January 1985 (or, pitchers who won 20 games while playing for more than 1 team)

Posted by Andy on April 24, 2011

Follow along with events from the last several hours for me:

  • Last night I was reading Josh Wilker's Cardboard Gods and was reading the entry with the 1978 Topps Tom Seaver. Wilker noted it was Seaver's first card in a Reds uniform. He remarked about the other movement in Seaver's career from that point forward. (Incidentally, a review of the book by me and hopefully a special contest will be forthcoming on this blog.)
  • Just before I went to sleep (but after my wife turned out the light) I checked Seaver's career stats on the B-R.com mobile site on my iPhone.
  • I was very surprised to see that Seaver had won 21 games in 1977 after splitting the season between the Mets and the Reds. I had always thought that Rick Sutcliffe in 1984 had been the only guy in recent times (which for me is usually post-WWII) to win 20+ in a season in which he changed teams. Maybe it's that Sutcliffe is the only guy to win the Cy Young in such a season?
  • Anyway, that got me to thinking about who else might have done it. The Play Index doesn't allow for an easy way to search for this, as the "Franchises Played For" criterion is for careers only, not individual seasons.
  • So I turned to Google and searched for something like "win 20 games playing for two teams Sutcliffe Seaver".
  • The first thing that came up with a link in Google Books to a Baseball Digest article from January 1985 by Larry F. Rasmussen. The article was of course writing about Sutcliffe's achievements from the season that had just ended, and includes a list of other pitchers to win 20 while switching teams. In fact, Rasmussen broke it down into players who did it while switching leagues, and others like Seaver who did it while switching teams in the same league. Anyway, it's been done a fair number of times, and the last time before Seaver was by Virgil Trucks in 1953. Has it happened since 1985? I can't think of a case. (The first couple of cases that flew into my mind were CC Sabathia in 2008 when he won 11 after going to the Brewers, but he had won only 6 with the Indians, and David Cone, who won 9 with the Yankees in 1995 but had won only 9 with the Blue Jays.)

Anyway, it's incredible that you can see all these back issues of publications like Baseball Digest on Google for free. Check out some of the other cool things in that issue:

  • Wayne Stewart has a diary of the 1984 season starting on Page 78. It's a fun read, and I never knew that Tony LaRussa played lefthander Mike Squires at 3rd base. Has any lefthander gotten significant time at 3rd since? Also, the article talks about him handling chances without any errors, but doesn't that totally miss the point of why lefthanders don't play 3rd base? It has nothing to do with their ability to handle batted balls, but rather the time it takes to turn, set, and throw to the right side of the infield (or so I thought at least.) There's tons of other interesting stuff in this article.
  • Check out the Personality Posters ad on page 93. Only $5.00 each!
  • The mailbag on Page 10 has a neat question about outfields where all 3 members drove in 100 runs each. That sort of thing is easy as pie to find now. The 2003 Braves are the 4th team to do it.
  • On Page 37, David Surdam writes about teams with 6+ guys having 80 or more RBI. As you might imagine, that record was beaten and diluted by the Steroid Era.
  • You can't miss the feature on Page 47 entitled "Major League Baseball is Moving Toward Parity" by Bud Selig Rich Hofmann.
  • See how times have changed with the crossword puzzle (actually an advertisement for Newport Cigarettes) on page 52.
  • On Page 69, Lonnie Wheeler wonders if Eric Davis is the "Next Phenom for the Reds". I'll go ahead and answer that one: hell yes.
  • Coming from the I-did-not-know-that file is a neat bit on Page 73 by Guy Waterman with an all-time All-Star team using players out-of-position, meaning at positions they played in the big leagues but not the positions we know them for (such as Hank Aaron at 2B and Johnny Bench at 3B.)

Anyway, be prepared to waste hours going through this...

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 24th, 2011 at 7:22 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

30 Responses to “Baseball Digest, January 1985 (or, pitchers who won 20 games while playing for more than 1 team)”

  1. Bartolo Colon comes to mind in 2002. 10-4 with both the Indians and the Expos (20-8 overall).

  2. @1
    Colon-2002 is indeed the only one since Sutcliffe to achieve that feat.

  3. I thought the Big Unit might have done it in 1998, but he fell 1 win short

  4. Rasmussen didn't check the 19th century.

    1875 - George Zettlein CH2-NA (17) / PH2-NA (12)
    1884 - Billy Taylor SLU-UA (25) / PH4-AA (18)
    1884 - Charlie Sweeney PRO-NL (17) / SLU-UA (24)
    1884 - Dupee Shaw DTN-NL (9) / BSU-UA (21)
    1884 - Jim McCormick CL2-NL (19) / CNU-UA (21)
    1885 - Jim McCormick PRO-NL (1) / CHN-NL (20)
    1888 - Elton Chamberlain LS2-AA (14) / SL4-AA (11)
    1890 - Sadie McMahon PH4-AA (29) / BL3-AA (7)
    1891 - Willie McGill CN3-AA (2) / SL4-AA (19)
    1891 - Harry Staley PIT-NL (4) / BSN-NL (20)
    1892 - Hank Dwyer SLN-NL (2) / CIN-NL (19)
    1892 - John Clarkson BSN-NL (8) / CL4-NL (17)

  5. For whatever it's worth, I believe that Colon (2002) and Hank Borowy (1945) are the only pitchers to win 10 or more in each league in the same season.

  6. Those back issues of Baseball Digest are great.

    Its fun to read their prognostications with 20/20 hindsight. An article in the fall of 1946 has the headline "Robinson is the Name for '47". It turned out they were talking about Aaron Robinson. :-) I'm sure we could cherry-pick their incoming rookie class articles for each year. That's not really a fair thing to do but its still fun.

    Still, its invaluable to have this resource because of the contemporary accounts. An interview with Robin Roberts in the spring of 1957 asking him if he could get his fastball back.

  7. Paul-

    My memory of RJ's season that year was that he sort of tanked his way out of Seattle and had a poor (by his standards) season in Seattle before the trade. Had he pitched the whole season the way he pitched in Houston, he easily would have made this list. The numbers seem to bear this out, though it is obviously hard to definitively say what caused the extreme splits.

  8. I tried to post before but apparently someone or something didn't like it.
    You can easily find pitchers who had 20 or greater win seasons using play index. There will be "Tot" in the team column for that year. So choosing 1983 to 2011 you'll find that as Hunter said Bartolo Colon is the only other man to do it.
    I had a link to a search result but perhaps that's why the post didn't post. Let's see if this one does.

  9. Fred, great idea. Your comment probably got caught by the spam filter but I'm mobile now and cant manually approve it.

  10. Richard Chester Says:

    @5

    According to The Baseball Maniac's Almanac you are right about Borowy and Colon being the only pitchers to win 10 or more games in each league in the same season.

    Overall there are 11 pitchers who won more than 20 games in a season while playing for more than one team..

  11. Mike Squires also was the most recent lefty-throwing catcher - for the 1980 White Sox. Years ago, I met him at Yankee Stadium and we talked at length about that. Teams don't play lefties at 2B, SS, and 3B for obvious reasons, but there's no obvious basis for the bias against lefty catchers.

  12. Thanks, Andy for the direction to old Baseball Digests. As you warned, I wasted some time in a 1980 edition. One of the cover stories was titled "Joe Charboneau: A New Star Twinkles In Cleveland" interesting and nostalgic.

    Your mention of Rick Sutcliffe made me check his transactions page to see when he was traded to try and figure out why an (eventual) 20-game pitcher would be traded during the season. The 1984 season was before blatant rent-a-free-agent was fashionable.

    He was traded June 13, 1984 while the Indians were 22-34. It's just that it seemed awfully early for Indians' management to be waving the white flag.

    A good discussion would be over who got the best of the trade. Although Sutcliffe was instrumental in the Cubs winning their division that year, both Joe Carter and Mel Hall came the other way.

    Hmm... and Cleveland initiated the Bartolo Colon trade also.

  13. "Mike Squires also was the most recent lefty-throwing catcher - for the 1980 White Sox."

    Incorrect.

    Benny DiStefano caught three games for the 1989 Pirates.

  14. Richard Chester Says:

    @10

    I should have added "since 1901" at the very end.

  15. If I remember correctly, Colon was almost traded against that year. I believe that was one of (maybe the first?) the years that the Expos/Nats were owned by baseball and, off to a great (by their standards) start, they had to sort of pretend they were trying. They traded for Colon and Cliff Floyd and after falling out of contention, they flipped Floyd to the Red Sox and I believe had Colon on the market as well. Weird year.

    They were 16-10 after April, 27-27 after May, and 42-38 after June. They traded for Colon on June 27th (41-36, 2nd place, 6.5GB) and for Floyd on July 11th (46-42, 2nd place, 10.5GB). Floyd was traded again on July 30th (53-53, 3rd place, 15GB). I'm not sure where they stood in the Wild Card standings at any of those times.

    What is really sad is that the Expos gave up quite a haul to get Colon: Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens. Hindsight is 20/20, but I'm pretty certain that at least Sizemore and Philips were considered top prospects at the time. In the off-season, they finally flipped Colon to the White Sox for Rocky Biddle, El Duque, and Jeff Leifer.

    They gave up considerably less for Floyd but did lose Carl Pavano in the deal. They got Sun Woo Kim and a minor leaguer back from Boston.

  16. @16
    BSK, interesting observations surrounding the Colon trade and the unusual Expo transactions that year.

    As a Canadian, I still bemoan the loss of my country's other baseball franchise.

    Your post makes me think of the current league operation of the Dodgers. Although there are huge differences in circumstances then and now, it raises the question of how free a GM is to conduct transactions that are in the best interests of the team during the league-operated period.

  17. John Autin Says:

    Most wins in a season while changing teams (1901-2010):
    -- 23, Red Barrett, 1945.

    Despite pitching pretty well in earlier trials, Red Barrett didn't get a real shot in the majors until 1943, age 28, and that came with the 2nd-division Boston Braves, who saddled him with a 2-year record of 21-34 despite an even 100 ERA+.

    On May 16, 1945, Barrett pitched scoreless ball over the last 5 frames of a 14-inning win over the Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader. The Redbirds had won the last 3 NL pennants (and 2 WS titles), but after dropping the nightcap, they were languishing at 10-12, already 8 games off the pace.

    A week later, the Cards were still 6-1/2 games out when they made a daring move. They sent Mort Cooper -- merely the staff ace, 1942 MVP and the most valuable pitcher in baseball over the past 3 years, in which he went 65-22 with a 160 ERA+ -- to the Braves for Red Barrett and $60,000.

    The trade nearly brought the Cards another pennant.

    Red Barrett made 29 starts (22 CG) and 7 relief appearances for the Cards, going 21-9, 2.74 in 247 IP. As a Cardinal, he was especially tough on two teams. He beat the Giants, who got off to a 25-7 start and a big early lead in the pennant race, 5 times in as many games (all CG wins); and he went 4-0 in 5 games vs. the Cubs, the eventual pennant winners.

    On Sept. 2, the now 2nd-place Cards hosted the 1st-place Cubs in a doubleheader. A sweep would have tied them in the win column, but they fell in a 10-inning opener to Hank Borowy (himself a midseason pickup, as noted above). In the nightcap, Barrett blanked the Cubs on 1 hit, a single by Lennie Merullo, a .240 career hitter. Merullo was erased (somehow), and Barrett did not allow any other baserunners. That is one of 22 games in the searchable era in which a pitcher went at least 9 innings, allowed exactly one baserunner, and faced the minimum number of batters in a complete game. Coincidentally, the next man to do this was Hank Borowy, in 1948.

    On Sept. 18, Barrett beat the Cubs again, his 22nd win of the year and 20th with the Cards. The win pulled St. Louis within 2 games of the lead with 10 games to play, 4 of them against the Cubs, including 2 more at home in the current series. But the next day, Borowy beat them again in 10 innings, by the same 4-1 score as the Sept. 2 game, putting the Cubs back up by 3 games. Although the Cards won the rubber game of that series and 7 of their last 9 games, they never again got within striking distance of Chicago, who also won 7 of 9 to finish 3 games ahead.

    Aftermath: Barrett placed 3rd in the 1945 MVP vote, won by Phil Cavaretta. But he was injured (or just ineffective) much of the following year, logging but 67 innings -- though he managed another 1-hit, 1-baserunner shutout, this one of the Phillies; Del Ennis got the only hit. The Cardinals won the '46 pennant, but Barrett did not pitch in the 7-game WS win over the BoSox. During the offseason, the Cards sold Barrett back to the Braves. He rebounded with 211 IP and a 111 ERA+, with 3 shutouts -- including yet another one-hitter, blanking the Cubs 1-0 on 6/9/1947. Who got the only hit? That man again -- Hank Borowy!

    That was Barrett's last full year in the rotation. In 1948, he became a swing man, with a 107 ERA+ in 128 IP. He made 2 scoreless relief appearances in the World Series, which the Braves lost in 6 games. By 1949, he was low man in the bullpen, appearing 23 times -- 22 of them losses. His last MLB game was Sept. 29, 1949; he finished off a 9-2 loss with a perfect 9th. He finished his career with a record of 69-69, a 106 ERA+ in 1,263 IP, and 11 shutouts in 149 starts, including three 1-hitters and one 2-hitter (with no walks or strikeouts).

  18. Neil L-

    It is hard to say definitively what MLB's motivations were with the Expos. If I remember correctly, the company line at the time was that the GM had absolute autonomy with personnel decisions but had to keep payroll where it was. Personally, I find that hard to believe. No one had a particularly vested interest in the Expos doing well. MLB bought them intending to contract them but were rebuffed in these efforts. Minaya was brought in and, as a first-time GM with no knowledge of the team's future, was likely trying to make a name for himself. Developing prospects he had no hand in drafting wouldn't have done much; making trades that made a moribund team competitive was his only shot. And without being able to add payroll (a position many teams find themselves in but not because the 29 other teams decided that for them), the team lacked true autonomy.

    The New Orleans Hornets in the NBA are in the same boat right now. Such asshattery if you ask me.

  19. Richard Chester Says:

    @17

    Barrett holds the record for the fewest pitches in a complete game. On August 10, 1944 he threw just 58 pitches while shutting out the Reds on 2 hits. Time of the game was 1:15.

  20. @17
    JA, Red Barrett was 2-3 with Boston before he was traded. He had 5 starts and 4 relief appearances before the trade so he was without a clearly-defined role.

    Red Barrett is without question the earliest-traded, two-team, 20-game winner in modern history.

    With a potential wild-card berth in sight, we are unlikely to see effective pitchers traded early in the season again. No one wants to send a message to their fans that they are giving up in May or June.

  21. John Autin Says:

    @20, Neil L. -- You're probably right that the extra playoff berths discourage early-season trades. So, too, does the lateness of the trade deadline, which in 1985 was moved back from June 15 to July 31.

    On the other hand, the greater number of playoff berths cuts both ways; teams that feel they're in the hunt have a greater incentive to try to acquire players to put them over the top. Plus, at all times, impending free agency provides a potent motivation for such deals. So it's not unheard of for a team, even one within reach of a playoff berth, to deal present assets for prospects before the season's midpoint.

    In 1997, the White Sox were just 3 games back in the division when they made a deadline deal, sending SP Wilson Alvarez and closer Roberto Hernandez (both on the brink of free agency), along with superannuated swingman Danny Darwin, to the Giants in exchange for a package of young players including RPs Keith Foulke and Bobby Howry, SS Mike Caruso and others.

    Bartolo Colon was traded in late June of 2002, with a year and a half left on his contract, as the Indians were below .500 and coming to grips with the end of their 7-year run of success. That trade netted a huge pot of young talent, including Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips, which helped the Indians get back into contention within a couple of years.

  22. @11
    The bias against left-handed catchers exists because most hitters are right handed and thus more likely to hinder a left-handed throwing catcher's ability to throw out a baserunner attempting to steal. I think this could come into play if the runner is stealing third moreso than second.

    I've read somewhere that major league level baseball minds disagree about whether or not this is actually a factor... but that there are no left-handed catchers anyway because they are weeded out at an earlier stage in their careers due to this bias.

    I believe I read about this in Baseball Digest years ago.

  23. "Has any lefthander gotten significant time at 3rd since?" Yes, Don Mattingly played 3rd base for the Yankees in 1986. I vaguely recall him doing this during NBC's Game of the Week, but I could be wrong about that. Not sure if this is the most recent instance of a lefty playing third.

  24. Mattingly did indeed play 3rd in 86, in 3 different games; 4 innings (5-9) against Seattle on August 29, the first 5 innings of game one of the August 30th double header with the M's and the whole game the next day. Altogether 18 innings, 13 chances, 2 double plays, 1 error in the first inning on the 30th. He also played 2nd base for 1 out in the 9th inning of a game against KC on the 24th of July 83.
    Billie Martin was nothing if not innovative. I wonder what went through Mattingly's mind when Billie said "Hey Don, move over and play second."

  25. Just a follow up on Mattingly, I checked play index to see if it would tell me he played there or in fact if any left handed thrower played 3rd, or 2nd at any time. I ask for 1 plate appearance because he had at least one in each game at third though he had none at second in 83. PI came up empty even when I narrowed it to one season and two teams. Time to twist the relationship fields index and make them link up again :-)

  26. Ok just saw the new blog and tried it again this time I got the result, Maybe I wasn't holding my mouth right last time :-P

  27. @11,22

    A lefty catcher would need to take an extra step to throw out a basestealer at third. Kinda like a lefty SS or 2Bman pivoting on a DP. There's no fluidity and it would be kind of awkward.

  28. @4, I think you missed a couple in 1884:

    1884 - Al Atkinson PHA-AA (11), CPI-UA (6), BLU-UA (3) The only one with three teams!
    1884 - Hugh Daily CPI-UA (27), WHS-UA (1)

  29. @ 15, Guess who was the GM that made de Colon trade ?

    M. Minaya (and people wonder how the Mets can be this bad).

    As a Expo fan, it was just a STUPID move made by a show off of a man....

  30. There is one thing that really pisses me off about this site: having to click WASHINGTON every time I want to see the Expos stuff...